Monday, 28 March 2016

Bird Ringing - Umzumbe River Flodplain - Sunday 3 April from 06:30

Sunday 3 April from 6.30am BirdLife Trogons will visit Umzumbe River floodplain where Andrew & Ivan will be bird ringing.
Bring cameras, chairs, breakfast & if you wish to go up to Andrew & Ivan’s afterwards, something to braai for lunch.  ALL WELCOME. There is a R20pp charge for non-members of Birdlife Trogons.
Ringing is very weather critical, so if the forecast is for rain or very windy check or phone Eric  BEFORE setting off. For further details  telephone**  Eric Kok on 039 695 0573 / 0727510686 or visit the blog.   ** Please note we cannot respond to text messages or “call me” requests.
From Port Shepstone take R102 coast road. After crossing the Umzumbe River bridge turn left down the track to the floodplain. 
Set GPS to DD MM SS.S  =  S30 36 18.5  E30 33 11.03

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Trogons outing report - TC Robertson Nature Reserve, 13 March 2016

Hamerkops (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Attendees: Doug & Angie Butcher, Irma Smook, Margaret Jones, Hazel Nevin, Lennart Erikssen, Carol Louw, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen,
(Text: Hazel van Rooyen)
Bird count 47 (see end)
Sunday 13 March saw a small but serious bunch of birders meeting up at the TC Robertson Nature Reserve in Scottburgh.  Whilst waiting for the gate to open a Grey Heron on a dead stick in the river posed for us to give it closer inspection and two squawking and croaking Hamerkops on the far bank performed some not so innocent antics.  A third ran around wondering what was going on and an Egyptian Goose came to see what the fuss was about.  Pied Wagtails played in the dead tree and 3-banded Plovers scampered at the edge of the river.
Grey Heron (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Pied Wagtails (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Tasselberry - sumptious fare enjoyed by many birds (Photo : Hazel van Rooyen)
Eventually the gatekeeper arrived and we drove into the reserve.  Hazel Nevin ably led us through the forested Shaka/Bushbuck Trail which climbs up the side of the hill – and up, and up.  Most of the forest was quiet until the vegetation thinned out and here the sunshine was awakening the birds – Yellow-rumped Tinkerbirds (naturally), White-eared Barbets, Bronze Mannikins, Amethyst and Grey Sunbirds and Cape White-eyes.  Here we noticed a tree with tassel after tassel of bright-coloured berries – the Tasselberry, enjoyed by most birds. And rounding the top of the hill Red-wing Starlings whistled musically, Black-capped Bulbuls chittered, while the hollow bubbling of the Burchell’s Coucall could be heard in the distance.  Descending the hill, we began to see Olive Sunbird, Yellow-fronted Canary, Thick-billed and Yellow Weavers.  Down at river level some Grey Waxbills in a tall far-away tree were difficult to identify but juvenile Little Bee-eaters proved more obliging.  A Familiar Chat flashed its rufous rump and a Chin-spot Batis sang “three blind mice”.
Little Bee-eater Juvenile (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Little Bee-eater (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

Breakfast in a shady spot (Photo: Doug Butcher)
By this time we had worked up an appetite and enjoyed our breakfast beneath some shady trees, after which we approached the River Walk via a hide at a pond but this was quite dry and nothing stirred except for a Tawny-flanked Prinia in the reed-bed.   
Goliath Heron (Photo: Doug Butcher)
At the river a Goliath Heron sat humped like an old man on a dead tree.  Further around the river bend, the Kingfisher Hide was strategically placed and we spent some time watching Pied Kingfishers diving very successfully for small-fry.  
Pied Kingfisher diving for a meal (Photo: Butcher)
Pied Kingfisher with a tasty tidbit (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)

 Blacksmith Lapwings patrolled the bank while Sacred Ibis flew in and out.  An African Harrier-Hawk soared high above and an immature African Fish-Eagle surveyed the river from the tree-tops.  Suddenly a Purple Heron flew in but disappeared quickly into the reeds.  Woolly-necked Storks circled in front of us but decided there was nothing worth stopping for and flew away over the hills.  At the side of the hide a Yellow Weaver had a nest and brought a yummy juicy grasshopper to his family.
Woolly-necked Stork (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Yellow Weaver (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
From here we walked back to the vehicles and Hazel showed us the way to the opposite side of the river where we drove slowly along the river bank.  A Malachite Kingfisher caught her eye but was too quick for the rest of us. 
Crookes Family Church, Renishaw (Photo: Doug Butcher)
Graveyard looking out to the ocean (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Driving further on up the hill we came to a lovely little church which belonged to the Crooke family, sugar barons from the 19th century.  A well-kept churchyard of by-gone family members looked over the Mpenbanyoni River valley to the sea.  From this vantage point Hazel pointed out to us a Crowned Eagle’s nest and was about to say that there hadn’t been a chick last year when the wind blew a frond of green away from the nest and there sat a beautiful chick!  Delight all round!  It had been perfectly hidden by the frond and we had to wait for the wind to blow to get a good but fleeting look.
Crowned Eagle Juvenile (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
Crowned Eagle Juvenile (Photo: Hazel van Rooyen)
What a lovely way to end our morning’s birding.  We had our picnic in the peace and quiet next to the church and parted company - until next time.
 (All photographs property of photographer)
Bird count: 47
Barbet Black-collared
Barbet White-eared
Batis Chin Spot
Bee-eater Little
Bulbul Black-capped
Canary Yellow-fronted
Chat Familiar
Cormorant Reed
Coucall Burchell’s
Dove Red-eyed
Dove Tambourine
Eagle African Fish
Eagle Crowned
Egret Little
Goose Egyptian

Harrier-Hawk African
Heron Goliath
Heron Grey
Heron Purple
Ibis Hadedah
Ibis Sacred
Kingfisher Brown-hooded
Kingfisher Malachite
Kingfisher Pied
Lapwing Blacksmith
Mannikin Bronze
Martin Brown-throated
Plover 3-banded
Prinia Tawny-flanked
Spurfowl Natal
Starling Red-winged

Stork Woolly-necked
Sunbird Amethyst
Sunbird Grey
Sunbird Olive
Swallow Barn
Swallow White-throated
Tinkerbird Yellow-rumped
Turaco Purple-crested
Wagtail Cape
Wagtail Pied
Waxbill Grey
Weaver Spectacled
Weaver Thick-billed
Weaver Yellow
White-eye Cape


Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Report on trip away to Prince's Grant, Stanger - 6-10 March 2016

Attendees: Val & Stan Culley, Stanley & Asothie Gengan, Barry Willis & Sue Hansbury, Ron & Elaine Whitham, Bob & Hazel van Rooyen
(Text: Hazel van Rooyen)
Bird count:  (see end)
Prince’s Grant is an upmarket residential golf estate right on the beach close to Stanger on the KZN North Coast.   The house we stayed in was perfect for us and we had a most enjoyable few days. 
View from Prince's Grant (Hazel van Rooyen)

Our abode (Hazel van Rooyen)
Boy, was it hot though!  On arrival on Sunday afternoon we took a walk through indigenous forest down to the river and up through the parkland, over a sand-dune to the beach, where out on the ocean flocks of seabirds, mostly Swift Terns and a Cape Gannet were dive-bombing into the waves, just like the old Sardine Run days. 
Swift Terns (Hazel van Rooyen)

 Forest birds kept well hidden and silent in the stifling heat except for the ubiquitous Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird pop, pop, popping.  Even a bird hide next to an almost dry pond yielded nothing, but the well-manicured greens of the golf course were ideal foraging for Cape and Pied Wagtails and a pair of Woolly-necked Storks - one seemed to be concentrating on his next putt.  Brown-throated Martins, Lesser-striped, Barn and White-throated Swallows also wheeled and swooped about.
Woolly-necked Stork (Hazel van Rooyen)
Barn Swallow (Hazel van Rooyen)

Dlinza Forest Aerial Walkway (Hazel van Rooyen)
Getting a Bird's Eye View (Hazel van Rooyen)
Monday dawned hot and humid again but undeterred we set off for Eshowe and the Dlinza forest where they have an excellent aerial walkway.  Once again the birds were slow to show themselves but from the amazing viewpoint in the treetops we saw African Harrier Hawk, Trumpeter Hornbill, Black Sawwing, Purple Crested Turaco and enjoyed the songs of Yellow-fronted Canary, Sombre Greenbul and Black-headed Oriole.  We had hoped to see the Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon and although we heard it several times in the distance, this too didn’t want to come close enough to be seen.  A pretty brown and white butterfly fluttered about and was identified later as the Blonde glider, female.  Back at the reception/picnic area I looked up into the rafters to find several Golden Orb Web Spiders hanging around looked for prey – fortunately, they didn’t seem to fancy us!

Blonde glider (F) (Hazel van Rooyen)

Golden Orb Web spider (Hazel van Rooyen)

From here we went to what we thought would be an interesting dam, the Phobane Dam but this was very low and only a single lone Egyptian Goose found it of any use.  Where we parked, a few years previous we would have been well under water. 
Turning to the Tugela River mouth for some encouragement, we trudged along the beach in the heat to get a better view of a few Pink-backed and Great White Pelicans in the estuary.  Caspian Tern, White-fronted Plover, African Spoonbill, Little Egret and a Kelp Gull were also spotted.
Great White Pelican (Stan Culley)

Pink-backed Pelican (Stan Culley)

White-fronted Plover (Hazel van Rooyen)

Kittlitz's Plover (Stan Culley)
Sappi in Stanger, which, mainly because the weather turned quite damp, we ended up visiting on Tuesday and Wednesday, proved a life saver and restored our belief in Waders. 
Curlew Sandpiper (transitioning into breeding plumage) (Hazel van Rooyen)

Black-capped Night Heron (Hazel van Rooyen)

Ruff (Hazel van Rooyen
Marsh Sandpiper (Stan Culley)
Wood Sandpiper (Hazel van Rooyen)
 Never have we seen so many Wood Sandpipers, which we first saw flashing their white rumps along the puddled access road leading to the ponds and were so numerous, along with Blackwing Stilts, Little Stints, Ruffs, Curlew Sandpipers (transitioning into breeding plumage), Glossy Ibis and African Jacanas to mention just a few.  I must give a big Thankyou here to Stan Culley for helping us distinguish between all the different waders, without his help we would still be paging through our bird books trying to identify them.  We were also lucky to see an African Rail several times criss-crossing the pathway between the ponds and the reedy river bed.  Of particular excitement on Tuesday was the appearance of the Baillon’s Crake, a furtive but fast little wader which we spotted again on Wednesday.  At the hide the by now famous Spotted Crake eventually showed itself causing photographers jostling at the window to get their best shot.
Baillon's Crake (Stan Culley)

The most photographed Spotted Crake (Hazel van Rooyen)

Spotted Crake (Hazel van Rooyen)

The weather put a bit of a damper on a couple of days but true to form Barry & Sue saved the day with some fun games which kept us all alternately laughing and groaning and it cleared up in the evenings long enough for us to braai.

Thanks Barry & Sue for finding the venue at short notice and to everyone for their good company and knowledge-sharing.
Malachite Kingfisher (Stan Culley)
(All photos property of photographer)
Barbet Black-collared
Barbet Crested
Barbet White-eared
Bee-eater White-fronted
Bishop Southern Red
Bulbul Dark-capped
Buzzard Steppe
Cameroptera Green-backed
Canary Yellow-fronted
Cormorant Reed
Cormorant White-fronted
Coucal Burchell’s
Crake Baillon’s
Crake Black
Crake Spotted
Crow Pied         
Cuckoo Diederick
Darter African
Dove Cape Turtle
Dove Red-eyed
Drongo Fork-tailed
Drongo Square-tailed
Duck White-faced
Duck Yellow-billed
Eagle African Fish
Eagle Long-crested
Egret Great

Egret Little
Fiscal Common
Flycatcher Southern Black
Gannet Cape
Goose Egyptian
Goose Spur-winged
Grebe Little
Greenbul Sombre
Gull Kelp
Harrier-Hawk African
Heron Black-headed
Heron Goliath
Heron Grey
Heron Purple
Heron Squacco
Hornbill Trumpeter
Ibis Glossy
Ibis Hadeda
Ibis Sacred
Jacana African
Kingfisher Brown-hooded
Kingfisher Malachite
Kingfisher Pied
Kite Black-shouldered
Kite Yellow-billed

Lapwing Blacksmith
Martin Brown-throated
Moorhen Common
Mousebird Speckled
Myna Common
Night-Heron Black-crowned
Oriole Black-headed
Pelican Great White
Pelican Pink-backed
Plover Three-banded
Plover Common Ringed
Plover Kittlitz’s
Plover White-fronted
Rail African
Sandpiper Curlew
Sandpiper Marsh
Sandpiper Wood
Saw-wing Black
Sparrow House
Spoonbill African
Spurfowl Natal
Starling Black-bellied
Starling Cape Glossy
Starling Red-winged
Stilt Black-winged

Stint Little
Stork Woolly-necked
Sunbird Amethyst
Swallow Barn
Swallow Lesser-striped
Swallow White-throated
Swamphen African Purple
Swamp-Warbler Lesser
Teal Hottentot
Teal Red-billed
Tern Caspian
Tern Swift
Tern Whiskered
Tinkerbird Yellow-rumped
Turaco Purple-crested
Wagtail Cape
Wagtail Pied
Warbler Sedge
Warbler Willow
Weaver Cape
Weaver Southern Masked
Weaver Village